While it would be unfair to label all smokers as fire starters, there has been an alarming number of small grass fires lately.
And the sight of smokers flicking cigarette butts out the windows of moving vehicles here is still not uncommon.
Combine such idiotic behaviour with the current dry conditions and you have the recipe for potential disaster.
We recently marked the ninth anniversary of the Kelowna Mountain Park Wildfire, a blaze that swept through Kelowna’s south Mission area in 2003, incinerating 238 homes. That fire was not started by humans—it was lightning caused—but it did raise awareness about the threat of wildfire here and for a while, seemed to prompt us all to take precautions.
But despite smaller, yet still damaging, wildfires on the west side of the lake since then, time appears to have blunted the awareness we all need when we live in a city surrounded by forests.
It’s not a stretch to think that someone who would throw a burning cigarette butt out the window of a moving car on Harvey Avenue would also do it on the more rural Lakeshore Road in the Mission, Glenrosa Road in West Kelowna, the portion of Highway 97 that passes through Lake Country or any other road in this area that has trees or grass running alongside.
If people choose to smoke, that’s there business–until it starts affecting others.
Using the Central Okanagan’s landscape as a personal ashtray does affect others and should not be tolerated.
Flicking a burning cigarette into a ditch with dry grass may happen in a moment for a driver who is just passing through, but the damage that could result long after the driver is gone could take much needed resources and money to deal with, not to mention spark into a larger fire that could spread and threaten lives and property.
So if you smoke while driving, go ahead—inhale all you want. Just deal with the butt in a responsible manner by disposing of it inside the vehicle, not outside.